The right of the Conservative party, who have protested so destructively over gay marriage, might do well to remind themselves that their party itself is a marriage and marriages sometimes split up.
The damage that has been done to the Tories’ standing in the country over this issue can be seen in the latest Survation poll that has UKIP on 22% of the vote. This is only two per cent behind the Conservatives and if repeated at the next general election would result in a loss of around a hundred Tory seats.
UKIP would be unlikely to elect more than one or two MPs and quite possibly would end up with no representation whatsoever. The main beneficiaries would be Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The former would be left with a crushing majority on a relatively low share of the vote. The Lib Dems would wind up with much the same number of MPs as now due to gains from the Conservatives counterbalancing losses to Labour.
The effect on the Conservative party would be to eliminate a large chunk of their more liberal MPs and hand power to the right. The average ukipper might very well see this as mission accomplished. They would have had a similar effect on the Tories as militant trade unionists had on the Labour party in the late 1970s.
The choice for centrists in the Conservative party after the next general election may very well end up being similar to the choice that faced the social democrats in Labour after 1979. Should they stay put in the hope that sanity returns to their party in a decade or two’s time or should they strike out and try to break the mould of British politics?
If a sizeable chunk of Liberal Democrats are left after the election then at least some of the liberal-minded Tories might opt to dissolve their partnership with the Conservatives and form a new alliance. A hundred years ago the Conservative and Unionist party was formed from a merger of Conservatives and renegade Liberal Unionists. The ultimate result of the rise of UKIP could be to send the liberal wing of the Tories back home.
Of course all of this is predicated on UKIP still being a force to be reckoned with by the time of the next general election. It might not be. The Conservatives could recover their discipline and some fresh calamity could befall one of the other parties.
Whether the scenario painted above comes to pass is simply a matter of how far the Tory right are prepared to go along their current direction of travel.
* Andrew Chamberlain is a London-based freelance journalist, Liberal Democrat member and activist. He was a councillor in North Ayrshire between 2007 and 2012.